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TOPIC: Single screens

Single screens 06 Mar 2000 21:38 #19936

  • Stephen
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Is there a place for the single screen cinema in these day's of the multiscreen's and mega plexes and the same goes for the drive-in as well.Are there many of these two type of venues left still operating at a reasonable profit?What do you think guy's?As for my opinion (for what its worth)I believe that there is a place for both the reason being that a lot of people do not like going to the big multiplexes as there is no atmosphere,which is true.Even drive-ins have atmosphere and are great for a family night out at the movies and the single screen cinema is great for art movies and indie films.Haveing worked at differant multiplexes over the years,I have noticed these films have never worked but they do great at single screen cinemas mainly because of what I said earlier about atmosphere and you are treated like a person not a number as often happens at large multi screens.I could go on and on, What do you all think?long live single screen cinema's and of course the drive-in!


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Re: Single screens 06 Mar 2000 23:01 #19937

  • Ken Layton
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I helped restore and reopen the closed-for-10-years single screen Chehalis Theater in Chehalis,Wash. This theater was opened in 1936 as the PIX theater. It was remodeled in 1958 and renamed the Chehalis. It closed in 1986 and was gutted out completely and turned into a videotape rental store. In 1996 the video store closed and the building sat empty.
The theater now sports it's original 1936 restored light fixtures, a brand new snack bar, and DTS Digital sound. Just recently, we have restored the marquee, but the updated pictures of the marquee have not been posted yet.

This theater is a success today and we run first run movies.
Pictures are at:
Showtimes: (360) 748-6414
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Re: Single screens 10 Mar 2000 01:29 #19938

  • jrjrfm
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Single screens are not dead yet!!!
I presently provide preventive maintenance service to over 75 single screen theatres in the northern states! Granted, most of these are in small towns, but aside from the lumps and bumps of trying to get film, they are surviving! I have had several theatres re-open too! Many with young owners, eager to bust their behinds and try to have some fun!
I have also helped re-open a drive in that was closed for over sixteen years in a town of 900 people! It is doing great! Even the
larger urban areas are seeing a resurgence of the great palaces coming back...for example..
The Colfax Theatre in Colfax, Cal. it was
remodelled over ten years ago, in a town of
1000,area population of hundred thousands, and is one of the highest grossing theatres in the Sacramemento area as a 230 seat single!! Then there's the Stanford theatre in Palo Alto, Cal. they run NITRATE film! with CARBON is quite a theatre! Other great houses like the Wilma in Missoula MT, are utilizing their stages and pipe organs to keep the big screen alive!
Other little towns like Hebron, and
Belfield, ND., Cascade ID. now have theatres again!! The single screen will live on!
We will be posting pictures of these and many more great older theatres in the northwest soon on our website at
check it out!!!
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Re: Single screens 15 Nov 2002 14:13 #19939

  • dr
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There are many single screen and drive-in theatres still running. I find that the mid-west seems to still have many drive-ins that are still in operation. The owners have made some interesting modifications to some of their theatres however, making them run more effectively. From time to time we spotlight drive-in theatres in our weekly newsletter. There you can see the changes that some of the owners have made.
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Re: Single screens 15 Nov 2002 19:38 #19940

I own and operate a single screen in Northern California. It needed a lot of work five years ago when I bought it. I am now nearly finished refurbishing it. The theatre has made enough money to pay for all the upgrades--although I personally have not made any money. Next year, however, there should be a profit because everything major has been upgraded and/or repaired. You can check out the upgrades on the remodel section at [url=][/url]

I have enjoyed every minute of my single screen theatre second career. It often gets frustrating having just one screen to play the multitude of product that is out there during peak periods, but my patrons are very loyal and will usually wait for me to get the movie they want to see.

I definetely agree multiplexes have no atmosphere, but some do have some other great attributes that I would like to have. But, if you walk into my single screen, I will personally greet you and since I will know you are not from here, I will ask you where you are from and welcome you to the theatre and to the community. Many of my patrons will also welcome you. Another great thing about the single screen is the size of the auditorium. I hate the small auditoriums off the back aisles of the multiplexes. That is what is so great about the single screen theatre today.
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Re: Single screens 16 Nov 2002 14:41 #19941

  • Adam Fraser
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We own a single screen in Northern Michigan and are doing fine. If you dont mind the long hours and can stick it out through the dead months owning a single screen is much more fun and personal than working for or owning a multiplex. The one thing you do have to have at a single screen is atmosphere as others have said. If nothing in your single is different from what they can find at the modern multiplex they will have no reason to come to your theatre.
Interesting architecture, personal service, and interesting movies usually are the traits of a single that is surviving and thriving.
Adam Fraser
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Re: Single screens 17 Nov 2002 15:18 #19942

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Our single screen (in Ohio)is nominally in a town of 30,000 people but it has lots of population and lots of competition. 8 screens within 1/2 miles, 16 screens within 7 miles, 4 more screens within 4 miles.

We don't have a show palace like The Roxy in Northampton, Pa or the Senator in Baltimore, but we have a darn nice theater upon which I get many a nice comment. We survive out of sheer stubborness and a lot of work. Many single screens show only 1 movie on weeknights and 2 on weekends. We normally show 2 on weeknights, 3 on Friday, 4-6 on Saturday and Sunday. We start showing movies at 11:00 a.m. if the situation warrants and we finish after 11:00 most of the time. We compete head to head with the multiplexes on every level: sound, projection, concessions and we still deal personally with our customers. This includes hellos and smiles, and saying goodbye to everyone as they leave.

Many of our customers are first timers here. They still ask which screen is showing their movie, can't believe that they have so much money left after buying concession and can't figure out why the place isn't mobbed every weekend after they have been in to see the movie in our lovely large theatre with Dolby digital sound. But we can't always provide the movie that they want to see at the time that they want to see it. So they go other places often.

Our most loyal customers are families with kids so we pay a lot of attention to programming for them. Unfortunately, we cannot always obtain the movies that we need to serve our piece of the market. We have now spent more than a year as a first run. This is where we want to be and where our most regular customers want us to be. When we have have the film we need, we are often top grosser in the metropolitan area for that film, but film is not dealt out according to foot traffic or the opinions of the customers.

The only reason why this theater need cease to serve customers is because it can't get the film that it needs. It is not ever going to make anybody rich but has the potential to make a reasonable return if it is permitted to be first run.

I have to quote from the November issue of Boxoffice Magazine in the article on the Senator Theatre: Tom Kiefaber, owner of The Senator,"has been able to survive in a nation overrun by the multiplex,[although] it hasn't been easy. He has struggled to book the movies he wants and says he can't thrive as a single-screen relic. "No one comes to the Senator to admire the architecture," Kiefaber said. "It is a package that has to include the laterst film they want to see." Kiefaber's goal to show Hollywood's best first-run movies has pitted him against the chain multiplexes and studios, he says. In what has become an ongoing struggle to book what he wants at the Senator, Kiefaber can recall a string of toe-to-toe showdowns with distributors for certain titles. ... Running a theatre with only one screen has become so challenging that Kiefaber has decided to expand."

Expansion doesn't seem to be in the cards for this theater. We don't own, we lease. Our goals are not the same as those of our landlord and we haven't yet been able to come up with a package that could work if we can't be first run.

Over the years I have seen a number of smaller theaters overrun with a new multiplex. Most close sooner or later because they are starved for film and can't make it on subrun. Some do continue on subrun but I don't know of any theaters in the same town with a multiplex that are still first run. (I believe that we have just been shut out of first run movies by the powers that be.) Sometimes the owners have ceased to care about their quality of service before the multiplex and you might say that the customers are better off, but that is not always the case. Why shouldn't the customers be allowed to choose rather than someone outside their town?

I am seeing a you-scratch-my-back-and-I-will-scratch-yours mentality where the film companies think that I have to take some of their bad movies so that I can book one of their good ones. I don't agree with that philosophy and it doesn't work with the economics of a single screen. We can't afford too many booking mistakes much less intentionally book something that we know won't do well. Why should I take a 4 week contract on a movie that I know can't cover the theater's overhead? I haven't noticed the booking terms getting better recently to help us with our recent spate of bankruptcies in exhibition. The film companies do gamble every time they finance a film, but I also gamble every time I book a film. We both take our best shot. I don't believe in being forced to take garbage in order to get a decent film. It is this philosophy that is being quoted to me as "The distributors will "work" with the multiscreen complexes because they take more of the film." That means that they won't work with us. We are too small and want only the film that will work with our market place niche. That doesn't work with the distributors and so we die or become less than we could be. So unfair to this beautiful little theater.
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Re: Single screens 18 Nov 2002 11:40 #19943

  • Barry Floyd
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As someone who's in the midst of building a drive-in, I'll tell you a little about the difference in the numbers of a twin screen vs. a single screen.

We've gotten all of the approvals, zoning, ordinances, etc. required by both the county and the city to start construction on our twin screen drive-in, and now we are dealing with the bankers.

A little info on the proposed theatre:
2 screens @ 275 parking spaces per screen
Ticket Prices: $6.00 per person, with an industry average of 2.3 people per car. Concessions sales estimated at $7.00 per car.
Estimated capacities: Sun-Thurs 30%
Fri-Sat 80%

Our "projected" cash flow numbers for the theatre as a twin started with $10,000.00 cash on hand at the beginning of April 2003, and left us with a "cash on hand" position at the end of March 2004 of $145,753.00.

Due to the amount of "cash injection" required by the bank (money from our own pockets needed to put up front for the loan) - we've had to scale back our proposed theatre from two screens to one. You'd think that would just cut the numbers in half... it didn't. It brought the "cash on hand position" in March of 2004 to $22,322.00.

We realize that with only one screen, it limits us to what available product can be shown, and limits our access to the product.
Fortunately, we are in a setting where the closest competition is 35 miles away (indoor) and drive-in competitor is 50 miles away.

We are hoping and praying to build the best possible theatre we can given the amount of money we can qualify for, and add the second screen as soon as possible. Without the income generated from the second screen, it not that viable of a business operation.

I've checked with several other drive-in owners, and our projected numbers are in-line with theirs.

Hope this helps.....
Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
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Re: Single screens 18 Nov 2002 17:43 #19944

  • D. Bird
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I love the numbers. Barry, I take this to mean that your net profit single-screen is about $12K and $135K twin. My question would be, what your numbers are for debt service in each scenario and have you drawn a salary? Also, anecdotal conversations I've had with owners have said that a second screen will boost attendance 50% above a single, what percentage have you figured?
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Re: Single screens 18 Nov 2002 18:25 #19945

No wonder everyone is surprised I have 5 single screen theatres
In my "neck of the woods" I have been told that gross sales pretty much doubles on a screen added, even though I don't see the profit side doubling--as opening with more 70% movies--and fulfilling more 4 week contracts seems to eat away at the profit side--but the utilities and staffing difference of a single and a twin are so little it only makes sense that end of year cash would be better.

BTW--I have my "quota" of singles now and next expansion will be adding screens as I can

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